Know Thyself, Know Thy People

Advice and tips on how to better manage your workplace and your people.

Know Thyself, Know Thy People,,, crowd ink, crowdink
Know Thyself, Know Thy People

In my experience, the number one issue business owners, leaders, and managers talk about is employees. “I can’t get my people to do as I ask.” “I get a good team and someone leaves.” The issue isn’t the team. It’s how we relate to the team. It’s how we lead and manage them and to do that successfully, we have to know ourselves and our people. The first rule of management – it’s not a popularity contest. Often I find leaders and managers are too scared to say what they think or want because they fear their people won’t like them. This is a myth. People actually have more respect and liking for those who are honest and assertive and congruent.

I remember one of the best bosses I ever had, told me on the very first day, “Shirley, I don’t like surprises and I don’t like the ladies packing up and going to the bathroom at 4:45pm when they are meant to be working until 5:00pm.” You may think this is harsh, however for me it was very liberating because I knew exactly what I had to do to succeed in the role – no surprises and pack up at 5pm. Simple.

This boss knew himself and he wasn’t afraid to share what pushed his buttons. Because he knew what his buttons were, he was able to manage around them. This is what we mean by “know yourself”.

You can do personality quizzes, and I highly recommend that to get an understanding of yourself, however in a much more practical way, all you need to do is to become aware of your reactions to certain behaviours, then put measures in place to eliminate or avoid them if negative, or encourage them if they are positive reactions.

As you become more aware of yourself, you will also become more aware of your people. When you know your people, you will be able to lead and manage them according to what they need and want, and you’ll be rewarded with a more productive and harmonious work environment.

Here’s an example using something everyone wants. Everyone wants to be appreciated for their efforts at work. We don’t go to work to upset the boss. It’s not our intention. However, we don’t all want to be appreciated in the same way.

In a previous role, I managed a number of staff; one lady loved to be acknowledged in front of a group of people. I would wait until there were about 10-20 people in the office and say, “Thanks very much. You did a great job with that. I really appreciate it.” People would stop and listen and she would puff out her chest and be very proud and happy. A second lady would have been distraught if I did that to her, so I would wait until she and I were alone in the lunch room and say, “Thanks very much. You did a great job with that. I really appreciate it.” She would quietly nod, put her head down and quietly exit the lunch room. It was the same message; however it was delivered in a way that suited them, not me.

Likewise, not everyone is into words of affirmation, so you need to find out what their “love language” is. According to Gary Chapman, there are five Love Languages: touch, words of affirmation, quality time and conversation, and acts of service.

I encourage you to take notice of what your people say and do. This will give you a clue as to what they prefer. When you know yourself and you know your people and act in accordance with everyone’s preferences, your workplace will be far more harmonious, respectful, and productive.


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Shirley Dalton is a management consultant and business coach who has helped thousands of people over the past 30 years to understand themselves and their people in order to produce extraordinary results. She is a radio and TV show host on the VoiceAmerica network, where she and guests provide information and education to help business owners, leaders and managers to reclaim their freedom and create their ideal business lifestyle.